Charoite is a rare and unusual gemstone. One of its most unusual characteristics is that it is often described as "unnaturally beautiful." It has such a unique and attractive swirling violet color that specimens of it are sometimes thought to be synthetic rather than natural.
In fact charoite is a natural mineral -- a complex silicate containing phosphorus, calcium, and sodium. It is always found in massive rather than crystal form in nature. Charoite was reportedly discovered in the 1940's, but it was not known to the mineral world until its description in 1978. Though remarkably beautiful when cut and polished, it is said to be opaque and unattractive when found in the field, a fact that may have contributed to its late recognition. The name Charoite is said to be derived from the Charo River which is near where it was first found in Yakutia, Siberia in Russia.
Charoite's color ranges from lilac to violet to purple, but it its unusual patterns are its distinctive signature. Charoite's patterns are variously described by such terms as streaks, swirls, feathers and mottling. In that respect it displays some similarity to granite or marble. But where granite and marble are rocks, composed of multiple minerals, charoite is a discrete mineral. Sometimes charoite specimens will contains streaks of orange tinaksite and green or black aegerine
Gemologically, charoite has a very complex chemical composition: it is a hydrated potassium, sodium, calcium, barium strontium, silicate hydroxyfluoride. It has a hardness of 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale, about the same as turquoise and lapis lazuli. Its density is 2.5 to 2.8 and its refractive index is 1.55 to 1.56; both values are roughly similar to quartz. Charoite has a vitreous to pearly or silky luster.
To date, charoite has only been found in the one location in Siberia. Despite its rarity and remarkable beauty, it is still modestly priced.
- First Published: March-25-2009
- Last Updated: October-08-2010
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